After coming into the Nigerian boxing scene as an unknown pugilist, Otto Joseph is beginning to make his mark.
In this exclusive interview with Completesportsnigeria.com's JAMES AGBEREBI, Joseph reveals how he dumped 'Okada riding' business for a boxing career, representing Nigeria at the Commonwealth Games. He also speaks about his African and world title ambitions. Excerpts…
Can you give a brief background of yourself?
My name is Otto Joseph, I'm 23-years-old from Akwa-Ibom State. I am from a poor background. I have two brothers and two sisters. They are all married. I'm the only one still single. I am an O level educational certificate holder, a former Okada rider before becoming a boxer.
What inspired you to go into boxing?
I believed I would become a boxer. I remember when I was small I loved taekwondo and football. And I also remember when we would go for competition, but our taekwondo coach will collect whatever money we won from it which made me to quit.
So I switched to boxing because my elder brother was a boxer and I always watched him when he trained then. I noticed that I was picking interest. And one thing about me is that I'm a fast learner. There was a day my brother's coach saw me and said I can be a very good boxer – that I have the potential. So he started training me. Whatever he ask me I did it. So that was how I left football and taekwondo for boxing.
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How did your parents react when they heard you wanted to go into boxing?
My parents were against my choice of going into boxing. They never gave their backing from the beginning. But when they watched how I beat a boxer from Repton Boxing Club when they came to Nigeria, they started giving me support.
What was the experience like when you first stepped into the boxing ring?
It was a good experience for me, I wasn't scared being my first time. I was confident because I had trained very hard and I was already looking forward to it.
What were the small boxing competitions you took part in before becoming popular?
I never took part in any small boxing event. I remember when I came to Lagos and was training with some boxers, Coach Joe Mensah saw me and said I should be part of the Monthly Boxing Hall of Fame at Rowe Park which I did. That was how I was recognised in Lagos State.
Can you name some of the competitions in whch you've represented Nigeria?
I represented Nigeria at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games and the World Boxing Championship in Kazakhstan in 2013.
What would you say you achieved while boxing as an amateur?
I achieved a lot like winning the gold medal at the 2012 National Sports Festival in Lagos and also representing Nigeria at the Commonwealth Games and World Championships.
When did you switch from an amateur boxer to professional?
I turned professional when I returned from 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
Why did you decide to turn professional so early, especially considering that you never went to the Olympics?
I decided to turn professional because I discovered my boxing style was more suited to professional boxing. Coach Mensah advised me to turn professional which I did, and also I had to allow the young boxers to come up.
So what have you gained as a professional boxer?
After turning professional, I am now the national lightweight boxing champion, a three-time best boxer at the GOtv Boxing Night, I have won the one million naira cash prize three times. So I believe I am living my dream.
And how does it feel being a champion?
I feel good because people never believed I will become a champion. And I have let the world know that there are very good boxers in Nigeria.
Since turning professional, you are yet to taste defeat after seven fights. What has been your secret?
I have no secret other than just training and working hard, and praying to God.
Who would you say have been your toughest opponents in your amateur days and as a professional boxer?
For my amateur days, I will pick Rilwan Oladosu and Osas Chisu as the two boxers who were tough for me. They are now professional boxers.
But as a professional boxer, I'm yet to see any boxer who is a threat to me.
What are your targets as a professional boxer?
My target is the African Boxing Union (ABU) title. And I believe if I get the title, I will get a chance for a world title fight.
Who are you role models locally and internationally?
In terms of style, I look at Mike Tyson as my role model while here in Nigeria I will go for Segun Ajose.
Otto Joseph, it is a pleasure speaking with you.
Thank you very much.